Obama wants India, Pakistan to talk, but will not tell how

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : President Barack Obama would like India and Pakistan to have a dialogue to resolve their differences, but the US cannot dictate how they should go about it or mediate in the process.

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“I believe that there are opportunities, maybe not starting with Kashmir but starting with other issues, that Pakistan and India can be in a dialogue together and over time to try to reduce tensions and find areas of common interest,” Obama told Pakistan’s Dawn group in an interview published Sunday.

“And we want to be helpful in that process, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be the mediators in that process,” he said according to the transcript. “I think that this is something that the Pakistanis and Indians can take leadership on.”

Asked why he or his administration had dropped the “K word” – Kashmir – from his statements after mentioning it in his inaugural speech, Obama said: “I don’t think that we’ve been silent on the fact that India is a great friend of the US and Pakistan is a great friend of the US, and it always grieves us to see friends fighting.

“And we can’t dictate to Pakistan or India how they should resolve their differences, but we know that both countries would prosper if those differences are resolved.”

Asked if he was sending India a message for resuming a dialogue with Pakistan through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama said: “Well, what we have said is that we think that all of South Asia would benefit by reduced tensions between India and Pakistan.

“I think dialogue is the best way to reduce tensions,” he said. “And so, you know, we’re hopeful that Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) and President (Asif Ali) Zardari – they recently had an opportunity to meet briefly.

“It wasn’t an extensive conversation but it was the start of what may end up being more productive conversations in the future,” Obama said.